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Foreigners implicated in illegal lead mining ring

Written by on June 11, 2024

A report by three officials from the Ministry of Mines and Energy says Chinese nationals working with locals in the Kunene region are conducting illegal lead mining exploration in villages in the Epupa constituency.

The illegal mining activities are allegedly conducted at the Otwani, Etanga and Omurororwa villages.

The 14-page report titled ‘Report on the trip to the Kunene region to assess persistent reports of illegal mining activities in the region’ suggests that Chinese nationals, assisted by Namibians, are committing illegal mining activities with falsified documents, while the Chinese provide resources to fund these operations.

“The police officers have indicated that they face difficulties in identifying and confirming the authenticity of the documents presented by the illegal mining culprits including the truck operators,” the officials say in the report.

The officials say the police officers in the Kunene region indicated to them that there are large syndicates involved in illegal mining in the region.

The report suggests that Kunene police regional commander commissioner James Nderura confirmed that the Chinese nationals were in the mining business in the region, with no control over the mining operations.

“They walk around the villages buying minerals using one permit or consent letters from the traditional authority. There is a need for direct supervision as there is no control of minerals in the region,” Nderura reportedly told the officials.

Some of the minerals, like lead ore, were allegedly found at a Chinese residence in Opuwo.

The team from the ministry recommended that the residence be declared a no-go zone.

According to the report, the lead stockpile found at the house is about 4 to 5 tons.

“Lead is very dangerous and it is not safe for one to keep it on their premises. Immediate measures need to be taken to address this issue,” the officials say in the report.

The report shows the lead was brought from Otwani village in the Kunene region.

The officials say there is a need for their ministry to register criminal cases against those who were found in possession of illegal mineral stockpiles.

Apart from lead, the report says there are several stockpiles of chrysocolla and copper ores at houses in Opuwo.

“We were informed that after the Chinese finished buying ore from the smaller miners, they rented a removal or transport permit from a miner to transport ore from Otwani to their residence in Opuwo,” the report reads.

From Opuwo they allegedly rent export permits from four known miners in the area.

The officials say the illegal ore would be treated as if it was extracted from the mining claims that are held by the four gentlemen and it would then be exported to China through the port of Walvis Bay.

“The culprits should be reported to the Ministry of Health and Social Services and the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism, particularly the environmental commissioner’s office. There is a need for the Ministry of Mines and Energy, the Opuwo Town Council and Ministry of Health and Social Services to declare the house with the lead stockpile a no-go zone,” the officials say in the report.

The director of health in the Kunene region could not be reached for comment as he did not answer calls and two text messages sent to him yesterday.

“The officers indicated further that they do experience delays in receiving the removal and transport permit once they intercept mineral consignments. In many cases, the documents are sent via WhatsApp to the truck drivers, who then show them to the authorities (police officers), who have no choice but to let them proceed,” the officials say in the report.

The police officers, according to the report, do not know that the drivers are required to carry an original copy of the removal permit.

“We were also informed that blue sodalite rocks were constantly being transported across the region without proper documentation. In some cases, the culprits use expired permits or permits that relate to an area that is completely different from the one where the minerals were extracted,” says the report.

According to the report, the police said they have little understanding of the removal permit.

Nderura told The Namibian yesterday that the matter is now under control.

He said the Chinese nationals and their Namibian accomplices could not be arrested as they are in agreement with the rightful owners of the mines.

“Some people come with funny stories that they made a living out of this thing. If you are making a living out of it, we are saying you must do it rightfully. Do the right thing,” Nderura said.

The post Foreigners implicated in illegal lead mining ring appeared first on The Namibian.

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